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 Alfred Richard Sr. Gurrey  (1852 - 1944)

About: Alfred Richard Sr. Gurrey
 

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Lived/Active: Hawaii      Known for: seascape paintings

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Alfred Richard Sr. Gurrey
An example of work by Alfred Richard Sr. Gurrey
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Biography from Hawaiian Art Collection:
Alfred Richard Gurrey, Sr. (1852-1944)

Noted for his Hawaiian landscapes, Alfred R. Gurrey was born in England, and moved to the United States at age twenty.  He worked for Fireman's Fund Insurance in San Francisco, and was sent by that company to Honolulu in 1900, working as an insurance adjuster and as secretary of the Board of Fire Underwriters of the Territory of Hawaii.  Gurrey lacked formal art training, but was a member of the Pallet Club of San Francisco, and in Honolulu became deeply involved in the artistic world there in the early 1900s.  He was elected to the Kilohana Art League, and participated in their exhibits for many years.  He also established an arts and antiques store, Gurrey's, in Honolulu.

Alfred Gurrey and his wife had a son, Alfred Richard Gurrey, Jr., and a daughter, Florence Gurrey (who later married Carl Bayer).  Florence exhibited many of her father's marine vistas in her Aina Haina (Honolulu area) home.  In 1996 the Gurrey-Bayer family donated thirty of Alfred R. Gurrey Sr.’s paintings to the Kauai Museum in Lihue.  Gurrey’s son, Alfred R. Gurrey Jr. was proprietor of the Gurrey Art Shop for many years.  Gurrey Sr.’s paintings often depicted ocean scenes due to his love of the ocean and sailing.  He was one of the early members of the Outrigger Canoe Club of Honolulu, and prior to moving to the islands had been Commodore of the Corinthian Yacht Club of San Francisco.  Often using a fresh color palette and free brush technique, he painted landscapes directly from nature.  Watercolor was a frequent medium. 

For reasons that remain unclear, Gurrey Sr. became estranged from his Honolulu family, and after his retirement from the Board of Fire Underwriters in 1916 moved to Kauai, where he continued to paint the scenery of that island.  A profile in The Garden Island (April 2, 1918) titled ‘Kauai’s Great Artists’, states: ‘Kauai is home of one of the greatest artists that the United States can boast of, and the world has known it not.  We think his marine views are sufficiently beautiful, grand, and impressive to attract attention in any art center in the United States…  Mr. Gurrey doesn’t have to advertise, nor ask favors of anyone.’ 

He loved to hike, and made the most of his years on the beautiful island of Kauai. Fascinated by the sea, he purchased properties at Hanalei, Kalihiwai, and Po’ipu (then known as Koloa Beach).  At Hanalei and Kalihiwai he constructed wooden ‘tents’ built for extended painting expeditions.  For a time he lived with his daughter and son-in-law at Makaweli.  Between 1920 and 1926, Gurrey held an annual pre-Christmas exhibition in the Lihu’e (Kauai) Parish Hall, the Lihu’e Library and the Ele’ele Hall.  He opened a studio behind the Bank of America there in 1928, and continued to paint on Kauai throughout his long life.  Many of his works remain in the homes for which they were originally purchased, treasured reminders of the particular cultural circle that flourished in the islands from the turn of the century on through the 1930s.  Along with David Howard Hitchcock, Otto Wix, and others, Gurrey exhibited both on Kauai and on Oahu at the semi-annual shows of the Kilohana Art League.

(Regarding A. R. Gurrey Sr.’s son, Alfred Richard Gurrey, Jr.)

Some confusion exists between the biography of Alfred Richard Gurrey, Sr. (1852-1944) and that of his son, Alfred Richard Gurrey, Jr. (b. ? – 1928), who died prematurely, around age fifty, following complications from a surgery in 1928. Discrepancies also occur as to the dates when Gurrey Sr., vs. Gurrey Jr., may have been involved with the Gurrey Art Shop in Honolulu.  The son, Alfred R. Gurrey, Jr., was married to well-known photographer Caroline Haskins Gurrey, and they both were very involved in the art culture of the islands.  For many years Gurrey Jr. managed the above-mentioned Gurrey’s art and antique shop in Honolulu, where he was a dealer in pictures, ornaments, antiques, and curios, and was well-beloved as a supporter of the arts and artists.  As proprietor of an art supply store and gallery, Gurrey Jr. was well acquainted with many artists and was a strong supporter.  In his book Encounters With Paradise, David Forbes wrote that it was at Alfred R. Gurrey’s urging that Lionel Walden (1861-1933) was persuaded in 1917 to hold his first one-person show.  It is most likely that this mention refers to Alfred R. Gurrey, Jr., vs. his father, as records indicate Gurrey Sr. moved to Kauai after his 1916 retirement.  In any case, a 1917 exhibit of Walden’s work was held at the residence of the Charles M. Cooke family, now the location of the Honolulu Academy of Arts. Walden, (who had come to the islands at the invitation of James ‘Kimo’ Wilder, a Hawaii-born artist he had met in Paris in 1911), went on to become regarded by many as the finest seascape painter to work in Hawaii.  Forbes goes on to say that Gurrey was also responsible for arranging for the first island show of the works of Charles W. Bartlett (1960-1940), shortly after Bartlett’s arrival in Hawaii from travels in India, China, and Japan.  That exhibition was also held at the Cooke home in 1917.  Bartlett ended up remaining in the islands for the remainder of his life.  Despite his involvement with such talented artists, Gurrey Jr., however, did not find commercial success from his endeavors at his art shop, and ultimately turned to the insurance field. 

A. R. Gurrey, Jr. was married in 1903 to Caroline Haskins Gurrey (b.? – d.1927), a noted photographer of Hawaiian subjects.  Together they had two children: a son, Richard (‘Dick’, who later married artist Hartley Fletcher (1907-1986), and a daughter, Gwendolyn, (later married to Roger Williams of Honolulu).  For many years Alfred Jr. and Caroline maintained a home on Manoa Road, in Manoa Valley, Honolulu, part of which served as Caroline’s photography studio.  Framed photographs by Caroline often had on their frame’s reverse a label from the Gurrey Honolulu Art Shop.

At the time of Caroline’s death in 1927, she and Alfred R. Gurrey Jr. were living at a home at Black Point, Honolulu. Her husband, Alfred R. Gurrey, Jr., died soon after. He pre-deceased his father, dying from complications following a surgery in 1928, shortly after the marriage of his daughter, Gwendolyn, to Roger Williams of Honolulu.

Credit for the above information is given to the website of the Bayer Estate of Honolulu; to Don Severson in association with the Honolulu Academy of Arts for their book: Finding Paradise; to David Forbes, author of Encounters in Paradise; to Frances Mist (Faus), a Honolulu-born friend of the Gurrey family; and to Richard Duff, a historian and collector, and brew meister.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.


Alfred Gurrey is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Artists who painted Hawaii

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